With the Karnataka Assembly elections round the corner, it is unfortunate that the two national parties, Congress and BJP, are indulging in competitive politics over the highly emotive and contentious issues of language, water, caste and religion. Forgetting larger interests of the state, both are cynically focusing on short-term gains of maximising their vote share, thereby causing undue hardship to the people. In this context, BJP's bid to "resolve" Karnataka's long-standing Mahadayi river water dispute with Goa with a quick-fix solution has backfired spectacularly, as it was clearly a gimmick ahead of the elections. Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar meeting Karnataka BJP leaders in the presence of party president Amit Shah in New Delhi and immediately writing a letter to BJP's B S Yeddyurappa saying that Goa was ready to give "reasonable and justified" amount of Mahadayi water to Karnataka for its drinking needs, was a drama which could not be sustained even for 24 hours. Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah and the state farmers called Parrikar's bluff in no time. Even as Parrikar's colleague and water resources minister, who belongs to a coalition party, distanced himself from the decision and called it a "political stunt" and the Goa Congress opposed the offer, Parrikar himself did a U-turn saying it was only a proposal which should be discussed bilaterally.
If Parrikar was sincere about meeting Karnataka's request for 7.56 tmcft of water for drinking purposes in drought-prone areas of north Karnataka, he should have written not to Yeddyurappa, but to Siddaramaiah and the Mahadayi River Water Disputes Tribunal which is looking into the issue of equitable sharing of water. The tribunal too had suggested that the two states reach an 'out-of-court' agreement on drinking water. When Karnataka tried to pin down Parrikar seeking a meeting on the day and at the place of his choice, he turned evasive, saying he did not trust Siddaramaiah. Frustrated at the games politicians were playing, farmers of north Karnataka, who have been agitating for over three years, laid a siege on BJP's office in Bengaluru, with a bit of help from Congress, which relished the embarrassment caused to its rival party.
When Karnataka unilaterally went ahead with the Kalasa-Bhanduri Nala project in 2007 to divert some water from Mahadayi to Malaprabha river basin, Goa prevailed upon the Centre to stall the project and set up a tribunal. As there is an obvious trust deficit between Karnataka and Goa on the Mahadayi issue, it is better to await the tribunal's award, which is expected in a year's time. Meanwhile, BJP will do well to introspect on its tendency to use every issue to win elections.